Boalsburg Historic District
The Boalsburg Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Boalsburg Historic District contains a total of 140 buildings of which approximately 60 are of major historical, architectural or cultural importance. The district is distinctly characterized by its predominance of Georgian and Victorianized-Georgian structures dating from 1803 to 1870. Its site lies at the northern base of Tusseys Ridge and is situated on a slight rise created by the emergence of two small streams from the ridge on the eastern and western fringes of the district. It is located in a rather low density development area and its present use is primarily residential in character although there are two churches, one restaurant/tavern, and several commercial structures located on or about the central diamond area of the village.
The original village, which was laid out in 1809, was a rectangular grid configuration using a sixty unit, 1/4 acre lot structure and should be considered the main core of the present district. This main core was developed primarily between the years 1809 and 1848 and reflects the district's earliest architectural, spatial, and cultural history during its growth to prominence as a major post village in the early horse and wagon transit system. This group of structures strongly suggests and preserves the European-British influence in urban planning which is characterized through use of such elements as rectangular grid arrangement of streets, public diamond or market area, narrow street widths, and the rather small, but closely situated spatial arrangement of structures. This main core also reveals a chronological succession of materials used in construction of dwelling and commercial structures built during the 1809-1848 period.
Intrusions into the district are slight and are only in five specific sites.
Within the main grid two types of structures were evolving during its major growth period (1809-1848). The first, the commercial or commercial-residential structure, and the second, the residential structure.
Commercial: During this district's significant historic period perhaps the most important commercial establishments were the town's three inns. The first inn to be erected in Boalsburg was the David Boal Tavern built in 1803. This inn was in operation for 30 years and a portion of the original structure still remains. The second inn, known as Wolf's Inn, is a two story, five bay, log structure which was built between 1803-1832. The third inn, the Boalsburg Tavern, built in 1819, is the most substantial of the three. A 2 1/2 story limestone structure and it is still in service today as a restaurant.
Several other commercial properties within the boundaries of the historic district suggest the atmosphere of the village during its most significant era. Most of these properties were used as family-run businesses where the family home and business occupied the same lot. Some of these home businessmen were a carpenter, shoemaker, mason, blacksmith and merchant.
Two larger industrial areas were present during the 1803 to 1870 era; a wagon making operation and a tannery. Sections of these building complexes still remain.
Residential: Architecturally, Boalsburg's residential and commercial structures are influenced by two specific architectural movements. The first movement spanning from 1800 to 1835, is representative of the traditional Georgian structure, as typified by the Boalsburg Tavern. This Georgian structure, built of native limestone, is a two story, seven bay edifice of imposing size and character, exhibiting the strong British influence prevalent in early colonial architecture. Also from this period are a number of log structures that still survive and have been covered at some time in early history with a variety of exterior coverings. A typical example of this type of structure is Wolf Tavern, 1815-1834, a two story, five bay, log and frame structure used as an early inn. Another structure from this period is the John Hess House (1826), a two story, three bay, brick structure using the Traditional-Georgian side hall plan.
The second architectural movement, spanning from 1850 to 1895, expresses the wispish design of the Victorian style. This style can best be characterized in the porch and porch ornamentation of this period. A chronology representing the Victorian influence is quite evident in three specific examples which trace the development of the Victorian porch and its ornamentation. The first example, the Colonel Johnston House (1809), reveals the simple, unadorned Victorian porch, added circa 1860, with its heavy, monumental character. When compared to the second example, the W. A. Murray House (1863), the strong monumentality is still quite evident, but its heaviness is disguised by its trappings, the arched support members spanning from post to post and the jagged, saw-toothed post appendages that help strengthen and emphasize the porch's structural components.
The final example, the Dunlap-Eilert House (c. 1830), when compared to the Johnston and Murray Houses, exhibits the late-Victorian porch (c. 1875), in all its splendor. No longer is the heavy, monumental character that stresses the existence of the superstructure evident, but instead the lacy, cosmetic airiness that has become so characteristic of the late-Victorian period makes its presence felt. The predominance of early Georgian and Victorianized Georgian structures compacted into a relatively small community and the almost non-existence of intrusion within this area give the Boalsburg Historic District an architectural cohesiveness.
Boalsburg offers a remarkably unaltered representation of the post villages that once dotted the Pennsylvania landscape. The Village of Boalsburg was originally laid out with the name of Springfield in the year 1809 by Andrew Stroup, a land speculator from Mifflin County. His choice of location at the intersection of the state's major north-south and east-west roads was the major factor in the development of Boalsburg as a way-station for travelers and goods as seen in the flourishing of the towns three inns and wagon industry.
When Stroup designed what was to become known as Boalsburg using a grid system with a large central square, he may have had more developed urban plans in mind.
With increasing travel to the west Boalsburg flourished. Business and services need by the traveler and the, local citizenry sprung up along the major routes. So that by 1847 the Village included 40 dwelling structures, two stores, two inns, a tannery, several wagon and blacksmith shops, a church, a post office, a grist mill and a woolen, factory. The development of the surrounding lands into farms and the discovery of rich iron deposits in the area all added to increase the population and commercial development of Boalsburg.
Several of the buildings of the Georgian style are the Boalsburg Tavern (18191, the James Huey House (c. 1820), the John Hess House (1826), the Charles Kurtz House (c. 1814). The Boalsburg Tavern, for example, is a 2 1/2 story, seven bay, limestone structure of impressive size and character. It features such elements as original woodwork, hardware, and fireplaces within the traditional Georgian floor plan. Located further west on Main Street is the James Huey House, another fine example of the Georgian style. This structure, a 2 1/2 story, three bay, limestone structure uses a Georgian side hall plan and features a trabeated Georgian doorway with dentils accenting the entablature. Further west on Main Street is the Wolf Tavern. This structure, which is presently a five bay, log and frame construction, uses the traditional Georgian side hall plan in its earliest section built of log and located on the western side of the structure. The John Hess House, also located on Main Street, is a large three bay, brick Georgian side hall structure. The Hess House features a beautiful Georgian entrance highlighted with fluted pilasters supporting a bold triangular impediment and a nicely detailed semi-circular fanlight. The Jeremiah Culbertson House is one of several log structures within the district. This house, which is covered with horizontal clapboard, also uses the Georgian side hall plan. Simply detailed throughout, the structure maintains most of its original design and character through the retention of original woodwork, hardware and fireplace. The final Georgian structure, the Charles Kurtz House is a 2 1/2 story, three bay, brick Georgian side hall structure. It also maintains many of its original design characteristics, but the most significant feature is the addition of the Victorian porch along the front and side of the structure.
The wispy design of the Victorian style can be seen in the buildings erected in Boalsburg during the 1850-1895 period. This style can best be characterized in the porch and porch ornamentation during this period. A chronology representing the Victorian influence is quite evident in three specific examples which trace the development of the Victorian porch and its ornamentation. The first example, the Colonel Johnston House (c. 1809) reveals the simple unadorned Victorian porch with its heavy monumental character. When compared to the second example, the W. A. Murray House (1863), the strong monumentality is still quite evident, but its heaviness is disguided by its trappings, the arched support members spanning from post to post, and the jagged, saw-toothed post appendages that help strengthen and emphasize the porch's structural components. The final example, the Dunlap-Eilert House (c. 1830), when compared to the Johnston and Murray houses, exhibits the late Victorian porch in all its splendor. No longer is the heavy monumental character that stresses the existence of the super structure evident, but instead the lacy cosmetic airiness that becomes so characteristic of the late-Victorian period makes its presence felt. The predominance of early Georgian and Victorianized-Georgian structures compacted into a relatively small community and the almost non-existence of intrusions within the district gives Boalsburg Historic District an architectural cohesiveness that very few communities can boast.
Linn, John Blair. History of Centre and Clinton Counties. Louis H. Everts. Philadelphia, 1883.
Margaret, Myrtle. "The History of Boalsburg", Centre Daily Times, State College, September 28, 1938, March 20, 1939.
Maynard, D. S. Industries and Institutions of Centre County. Richie and Maynard, Bellefonte. 1877.